Apr 27

Nuggets From The Bronx; Beware A Trap Series With Miami

After sleeping on Sunday night, what can we make from the Mets losing two of three over the weekend to the Yankees? To listen to talk radio – which in cases like this is seldom good – absolutely nothing constructive.

Contrary to what you might have heard, or read, this morning, the Mets’ world is not falling apart. Also, what happens in the next three days in Miami is more important to the big picture than what occurred in the Bronx. The Yankees series is the interleague gimmick; the three games with the Marlins are within the division.

HARVEY: Bright spot this weekend. (AP)

HARVEY: Bright spot this weekend. (AP)

The lesson the Mets should take to Florida is when you pitch and play well, odds are you will win. When you don’t, odds are you will lose. Both Jacob deGrom and Jon Niese pitched poorly – and the Mets also had brain cramps on the bases and in the field Sunday – so what happened was to be expected. Even in the best of times, when the Mets play poorly they rarely will win.

“We had a bad night,” manager Terry Collins. “For the most part, they’ve played well.”

They have and don’t forget still own the best record in the sport. Here’s what I took from the weekend, which I won’t call lost because they weren’t destroyed and it is still only April:

* Citi Field is superior to the bandbox joke that is Yankee Stadium. Sure, excluding last week, it hasn’t always given the Mets a home field advantage, but it is a fairer field. And, along those lines, for all the bitching and moaning the Yankees will do when they eventually pay Alex Rodriguez over his PED-tainted home run totals, can we also look at the cheap homers from playing in that park? It staggers the imagination what Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle might have done in those dimensions.

* I like how Lucas Duda is playing and hope playing in Yankee Stadium won’t screw up his approach.

* I’ve not lost confidence in either deGrom or Niese, and expect both will come out strong in their next start.

* For those who believe I don’t like Matt Harvey, that couldn’t be further from the truth. While I don’t like some of the things he does and how the Mets are erratic in their handling of him, it doesn’t take from the belief he will be the real deal if he stays healthy. A true indicator of an ace is his ability to rally a team around him following a loss, which is exactly what he did Saturday. And, while I am in the corner of preserving his workload, I admire his competitive, bulldog nature on the mound. Hopefully, he’ll have a lot of opportunities to pitch in key games – and come up big – for the Mets.

* Am I the only one puzzled by Daniel Murphy’s fielding and mental lapses over the last five games? There are times he looks lost. It’s one thing to throw the ball away, but he’s making poor decisions.

* Kevin Plawecki does not look overmatched at the plate, or behind it, either. Still, it is early and needs time. Speaking of not being overmatched at the plate, the same applies to Wilmer Flores. And regarding his throwing error, if you carefully look at the replay you will notice how he didn’t step cleanly on the base as he began to throw. It is similar to a quarterback’s wobbly pass as he is hit.

* Before it is over the Mets will rely on their bullpen even more. Consequently, I’ve changed my opinion on Jenrry Mejia. If his head is screwed on straight, I can see the Mets using him again after his suspension, but barring an injury, Jeurys Familia will keep the closer job. That Bobby Parnell and Vic Black suffered setbacks in their rehab is concerning.

* It would have been fun to watch Juan Lagares play centerfield in the original Yankee Stadium where it was 463 feet to dead center.

* I like Michael Cuddyer more and more and see him developing into a veteran presence the Mets will rely on even when David Wright is ready to return.

Cuddyer called Sunday “ugly,” and “we’re going to go to Miami and play better.”

Let’s hope so. I’m not concerned the Mets lost two of three to the Yankees. What I am concerned about is the Miami series. Sandwiched between the Yankees and Nationals, there might be the tendency to overlook Miami, a place where the Mets haven’t played well in recent seasons. Call this a trap series.

The Marlins are playing better than when they were at Citi Field, which is why this series is more important to the big picture than last weekend. The Mets were due for a setback, but playoff caliber teams win against teams they should beat, including on the road.

It is important to play well in Florida and face Washington this weekend coming off a positive experience.

 

Jan 26

Yankees Ready To Spar With Rodriguez

The Yankees fired an interesting salvo in their on-going war with disgraced slugger Alex Rodriguez.

After refusing to hold a “clear-the-air’’ meeting with Rodriguez, the Yankees are reportedly bracing their legal defense to prevent him from collecting on any of the $30 million in bonuses he would get from his 2007 marketing agreement with the team.

RODRIGUEZ: Facing more legal hassles.

RODRIGUEZ: Facing more legal hassles.

Good for them, even though they are sure to lose.

With six more homers he will tie Willie Mays (660) for fourth place on the career list, which would be worth $6 million. He would also get $6 million for tying Babe Ruth (714), Hank Aaron (755), Barry Bonds (762) and passing Bonds.

Naturally, the basis for their argument is Rodriguez’s involvement with steroids. It would be a worthwhile fight except for several flaws, namely the Yankees knew what they were getting into when they signed him, and then re-signed him.

However, their case would carry greater weight if they were to sue him for money already paid and to get out of the contract entirely, which has three years and $61 million remaining.

Proving they had no knowledge about steroids would be difficult because it is largely assumed Major League Baseball was aware of steroid use as far back as 1998, when we were “treated,’’ to the home run race between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.

Going this way would undoubtedly reopen old wounds and possibly create new ones. Personally, I would like to see them go that route regardless of the fallout because maybe all the truth would come out.

 

Nov 06

Hodges Belongs In The Hall

It’s time Gil Hodges went to Cooperstown.

It’s that time of year when the Hall of Fame ballots come out, and recently the Hall of Fame released ten candidates from the Golden Era (1947-72). Joining Hodges, who is in the running for consideration for the ninth year are: Dick Allen, Ken Boyer, executive Bob Howsam, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso, Tony Oliva, Billy Pierce, Luis Tiant and Maury Wills.

HODGES: Hall worthy.

HODGES: Hall worthy.

Unfortunately, I only vote in the annual balloting and not on this committee. Otherwise, I would vote for Hodges and Kaat.

I’m not a big believer of comparing eras because the conditions differ from era to era. I look at it as how that player fared in his time, and The Boys Of Summer aren’t the same without Hodges. Very few players transcend eras, such as Babe Ruth.

He hit 370 homers with 1,274 RBI despite missing two years serving in World War II. Using today’s stats, he also had a .359 on-base percentage and .846 OPS. Hodges averaged 29 homers and 100 during his 18-year career – which included the Mets in 1962 and 1963 – but never once struck out 100 times. He also won three Gold Gloves.

Of all the great Hodges stories, the one that stands out most was when fans in Brooklyn went to church to pray for him during the 1952 World Series.

Hodges was known for his quiet dignity, best exemplified when he walked out to left field to remove Cleon Jones from a July game in 1969 for not hustling.

There was no argument from Jones and neither hashed it out in the papers, either. Can you imagine that today, in any sport? Many Mets followers said the incident sparked their pennant run.

To this day, Tom Seaver chokes up when he talks about Hodges, calling him the key behind the 1969 Miracle Mets’ championship run.

Here’s hoping Seaver chokes up again when Hodges’ name is finally called.

Oct 12

Appreciating Carlos Beltran; Wondering About Return To The Mets

There are a lot of people who tell me if the New York Mets aren’t in the playoffs, and if there’s no arch enemy such as the Yankees to root against, they don’t bother watching the playoffs.

Too bad, because they missed a classic Friday night, and another example of Carlos Beltran’s post-season excellence to marvel over.

BELTRAN: I would take him back. (AP)

BELTRAN: I would take him back. (AP)

Beltran will be a free agent this winter, and because the man can still play and one must wonder if the Mets will make a run at him.

You do remember, that rather than pick up his $18.5-million option, the at-the-time rebuilding Mets chose to trade him to the Giants for Zack Wheeler.

I understood what the Mets were doing at the time, but even so I always appreciated Beltran, who is arguably one of the top five position players in franchise history.

I don’t know if Beltran is a Hall of Famer, but he’s a very good regular season player and an off-the-charts October performer.

Beltran drove in all three Cardinals’ runs and threw out a runner at the plate in a scintillating 3-2 victory over the Dodgers.

Add them up now and Beltran is hitting .345 with 16 home runs, 12 doubles and 34 RBI in 40 career postseason games. He also has 42 runs scored and 11 stolen bases. He’s played in October with the Astros, Mets and Cardinals, but has never played in the World Series. He is, however, an eight-tim All-Star.

“It’s just fun to watch him do his thing,’’ Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said last night.

A lot of Mets’ fans don’t want to hear that as they are instead they are caught up on one pitch Beltran took for a called third strike to end Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS.

Hopefully, Mets’ COO Jeff Wilpon was able to convey that to Beltran, along with the organization’s apologies for how his tenure in Flushing ended. You’ll remember, with the competitive part of the 2009 season over, instead of Beltran having knee surgery they opted to bring him back to play in 19 meaningless September games and was eventually shut down.

Then, in the offseason there was a snit between him and the organization – when Omar Minaya was still general manager – over knee surgery and Beltran had it on his own.

Beltran, as the team player he is, had no problem moving to right field for first year manager Terry Collins. Then came the trade for Wheeler and again the remembrances of the called third strike he took from Adam Wainwright.

That was a monster pitch that froze Beltran. It would have frozen Ted Williams. It would have frozen Babe Ruth. It was that good a pitch.

Instead of appreciating what Beltran gave the Mets during his tenure. Instead of acknowledging how he played hurt for the Mets, including with a broken face after his horrific collision with Mike Cameron, a great many Mets’ fans failed to recognize what they had.

Beltran, a free agent this winter, said he’d be open to a return to the Mets. I’d love for him to finish out his career here, where he’d take the pressure off David Wright and would be a tremendous influence to the Mets’ young outfielders in Juan Lagares and Matt den Dekker.

Then, when 2015 rolls around with Matt Harvey’s expected return, we might enjoy seeing Beltran in another Mets’ October.

Jun 14

David Wright Shows Graciousness In Embarrassing Moment

For those scoring at home, the website Cougarlife.com, has over 3.9 million members, which is probably close to double what the New York Mets will draw this year. And, a fraction of that would be enough to select David Wright to the All-Star Game this July at Citi Field.

So, despite the obvious reaction of “what were they thinking?’’ the potential numbers indicate it might not have been that horrible an idea. But, numbers aren’t the only, or most significant measure of what this is about.

WRIGHT: Worthy of applause.

WRIGHT: Worthy of applause.

Where it becomes horrible is the appearance of desperation, and that the Mets can’t draw enough on their own to put Wright into the All-Star Game.

My initial reaction, like most, was the partnership idea, and in this era of political correctness, once that door is opened what other sexually-oriented websites and business would demand equal representation?

While there is little doubt a “Sodom and Gomorrah Night’’ at Citi Field would probably bring more people than Foreigner will tonight, do the Mets really want to go there?

To their credit, the Mets – unlike your average politician – owned up to their intentions after they backed out of the potential partnership. Also, to his credit, Wright handled the matter with grace and composure, and admitted this drive to get him elected was embarrassing.

“It’s nice when the organization is trying so hard to do something for one of their players,’’ Wright told reporters after the Mets lost another game. “And I can’t thank them enough for that. At the same time, I’ve asked them to back it down a little bit, especially with the stuff in between innings.

“You appreciate what they’re trying to do, and they’re very good-hearted. At the same time, this is a team game. As much as I’d like to be here to represent this team in the All-Star Game, we can’t let this become an in-between-inning, one-player production. Especially with the way we’re playing as a team, I feel very uncomfortable being singled out for All-Star Game-type stuff.’’

That’s exactly the type of persona the Mets and Major League Baseball should be marketing. Class is a decreasing commodity today in sports, so when it’s there it should be appreciated. Wright is such a figure. So is San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan, who at the start of the second half last night, walked over to Miami’s Dwayne Wade to ask how he was feeling as the two collided earlier and Wade aggravated an injury.

As far as Cougarlife.com naming him baseball’s hottest cub, the question was going to get asked and Wright had two ways he could have gone with it. He either could have been a jerk or could have been gracious.

“Serious? Ummm, I guess it’s a nice honor,’’ Wright said. “Did you guys have to draw straws for who asked that question? I guess I’d like to thanks my parents for the genes.’’

It’s non-stop now with Twitter and the Internet. Times have changed, and not always for the better. This reminds me of a story about Babe Ruth, who stark naked chased a woman through a train car when that’s how teams traveled.

Reporters also traveled with the teams at that time. Upon seeing Ruth, one reporter turned to another and said, “I guess this is one more story we’re not going to write.’’

No chance today. The pressures are enormous and if you’ve seen it up close, you can understand why some players can’t take it.

When Wright first came up, a lot in the media wrote how they hoped he wouldn’t change. He has somewhat, but on the things that matter, the core person – at least the public image – hasn’t changed and that’s one of the best things he brings to the table.

As always, your comments are greatly appreciated and I will attempt to answer them. Please follow me on Twitter @jdelcos